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    Hi, Republicans.

    I know that it’s deeply satisfying to see the leftist Democrats and the media react to the Palin nomination. Many of them seem so deranged by fury that they’re about to tear themselves clean in half like Rumpelstiltskin. While the attendant resurgence of the culture wars has been troubling, there’s been nothing brought to the surface in the last few weeks that wasn’t there all along. Open, forthright debate is the best approach to these things, even though it inevitably gets contentious.

    On the same token, can we please bear in mind that what you’ve asked us to do is to vote Palin in as vice-president, based on certain particular premises? No, the media should not be purusing her more ruthlessly than it did Obama (who’s at the top of the Democratic ticket). No, they should not be trying to parlay her daughter’s pregnancy, her tanning bed, and her past as a sportscaster into evidence of unfitness.

    But you knew exactly what was coming, and you’ve been overselling her. Maybe not overselling how good she’ll be for the White House, but overselling what she’s done so far. Cato, of course, has been looking into her actual record on taxing and spending (via Q and O). The conclusion as I interpret it? More heartening than the average politician, getting better over time, but not exactly the bill of goods being marketed at the RNC:

    As Wasilla mayor, Palin has a decidedly mixed record on taxes and spending. She slashed her salary and cut property taxes by 40 percent because of booming sales tax revenue from new stores.

    But Palin also increased the budget by spending on roads and sewers, left the town nearly $20 million in debt and raised the city sales tax by half a percent (she said the money was needed to support construction of an indoor ice rink and sports complex and a police dispatch center).

    As governor, Palin slashed more than 10 percent of the state’s budget in 2007 (Question: Besides his checkbook, has Barack Obama ever balanced — much less cut — a budget?). She vetoed $268 million in state projects and imposed objective criteria on the projects.

    Libertarians should be cautiously optimistic about Palin. She has shown a dogged willingness to go to war with the worst elements of the Republican Party, but her missteps on some tax and spending issues means that libertarians should aggressively pressure a McCain-Palin administration to toe the small government line.


    Palin supported and signed into law a $1.5 billion tax increase on oil companies in the form of higher severance taxes. One rule of thumb is that higher taxes cause less investment. Sure enough, State Tax Notes reported (January 7): “After ACES was passed, ConocoPhillips, Alaska’s most active oil exploration company and one of the top three producers, announced it was canceling plans to build a diesel fuel refinery at the Kuparuk oil field. ConocoPhillips blamed the cancellation on passage of ACES [the new tax]. The refinery would have allowed the company to produce low-sulfur diesel fuel onsite for its vehicles and other uses on the North Slope, rather than haul the fuel there from existing refineries.”

    There are good reasons for an oil-rich state to tax oil production, but a fiscal conservative would usually use any tax increase to reduce taxes elsewhere. Perhaps I’m missing something, but I see no evidence that Palin offered any major tax cuts. She did propose sending $1.2 billion of state oil revenues to individuals and utility companies in the form of monthly payments to reduce energy bills, but that sounds like welfare to me, not tax cuts.

    All right. Not a social democrat, but not fearlessly principled. There are possible answers to the doubts raised–you can’t change everything at once and must choose your battles, some projects are legitimate for the federal government to fund–but if she or the McCain campaign has addressed them, I haven’t heard. I’m not as worried as some people about her hiring people she trusted when she took over as mayor and then governor. (Seriously, does the party that moons nostalgically over the Clinton administration really want to be arguing that there’s something suspect about bringing along a merry band of loyalists in the course of your rise from Palookaville? Today’s program is sponsored by the letter T…as in Travelgate.) But given her short track record, it would be nice to know about her decision-making process. How does she evaluate options? Whom does she turn to for information? Do her key staff members and confidants have histories of achievement that justify her trust?

    The foreign-policy-experience question has returned with renewed force since Palin was selected, but I remain unsure whether it in and of itself is as big a deal as we all wish it were. I still like Anne Applebaum’s column from over a year ago:

    As for foreign policy decisions made in office, it’s far from obvious that any specific kind of experience has ever helped a president make good calls. Vice President Harry Truman first heard that there might be some difficulties in relations with our Soviet wartime allies in April 1945, when Franklin Roosevelt’s death made him president — yet within months he had launched the Cold War. On the other hand, Lyndon B. Johnson had held national office for years before becoming president, but he still couldn’t cope with Vietnam.

    In fact, there may be some sorts of experience that are actually detrimental to a potential president. I worry, for example, about Hillary Clinton’s much-vaunted travels as first lady: She came, she made carefully prepared speeches, she received polite applause. [At this date, I think you could say something similar about Obama’s international tour.–SRK] It won’t be like that if she’s president, and I hope she doesn’t think it will be. Other presidential candidates have been governors of large states or mayors of large cities and have bragged that they conducted mini-foreign policies of their own. Still, the world looks quite different (and Mexico seems a lot more important) from Austin, Sacramento or Santa Fe, N.M., than it does from the Oval Office, while the verbal bombast needed to win votes in New York might not go down so well at a Group of Eight summit.

    Speaking of international experience, Applebaum herself has had plenty, and I doubt she meant to imply that there’s no point in trying to predict as best we can who will do a good job on foreign relations. If Palin’s resume on foreign affairs is going to be challenged in ways that, say, John Edwards’s (in 2004!) was not, then what would be useful for us to know is which allegiances she thinks are most important and who her role models are. What is she studying, whom is she talking to, what information is she absorbing against the day that she has to make (or contribute to) decisions in a crisis?

    The GOP’s been benefiting plenty from the Palin nomination; I just hope it remembers that we’re not voting for Best Embodiment of a Female Archetype.

    2 Responses to “Lorelei”

    1. I-Ronin says:

      Some of us are just not voting. Why bother given the choices?

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Unfortunately, it’s impossible to not-vote in a way that makes it clear to the political establishment that disgust with its anointees, not general apathy, is the reason. I also think, despite my long-standing antipathy toward McCain himself, that signaling support for an aggressive WOT is reason enough this time around to hold down one’s gorge and vote for him. Palin makes the ticket more likable for me; I’m not sure she increases the probability we’ll get good government out of it.

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